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Pong Toss! Frat Party Games
Beer Pong! Frat Party Games
Developer(s) JV Games
Publisher(s) JV Games
Engine Entity engine
Platform(s) Wii (WiiWare)
Release date(s) NA July 28, 2008
EU February 27, 2009
Genre(s) Sports party game
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: E
PEGI: 3+
Media Digital download
Input methods Wii Remote

Pong Toss! Frat Party Games, known in Europe as Beer Pong! Frat Party Games, is a sports party video game developed by JV Games for the Wii's WiiWare digital distribution service. It was first released in North America in 2008, and in Europe the following year. The gameplay is based off of the party game beer pong, which requires players to toss ping pong balls into plastic cups. Players can engage in the Pong Toss mode, the standard mode of play, and the Speed Pong mode, which allows them to strategically use power-ups to sink their ball first. Each mode has its own top five score list, with up to four players able to participate. It was originally announced on May 21, 2008, and was the first in a proposed series of Frat Party Games. While they considered using traditional controls for the game, the developers felt that it should be made for the Wii so that it could be more fun. They conducted a test of 15 people to see how they played beer pong.

Since its release, Pong Toss has had a substantially negative reaction from critics, holding an aggregate score of 18/100 and 18.75% at Metacritic and GameRankings respectively. It was called a complete mess by 1UP.com, and "ridiculously shallow" by IGN. It experienced controversy from concerned parents and activist groups before its release, owing to its then-controversial premise and content rating. It was originally titled Frat Party Games: Beer Pong and rated with a Teen rating for ages 13 and up, but its developer JV Games and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board received fire from several people and organizations, including the Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, for what was described as promoting alcohol abuse and binge drinking. The title was changed and it received an ESRB rating of Everyone ages six and up.

Contents

Gameplay

Diagram explaining the mechanics of the game. It demonstrates three different shots - the bounce shot, the quick shot, and the arc shot.

The objective of Pong Toss is to use the Wii Remote to throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in one of several cups on the other end, with each successful throw removing a cup from the table. The game features two game modes. The first is called Pong Toss, which allows players to play in a traditional tournament style, and the second is called Speed Pong, which encourages players to use power-ups to negatively affect their opponents to sink their ping pong balls first.[1] This mode was created by JV Games especially for the game.[2] Players can select from one of three environments to play in, with a choice of different tables. Players can also create a character to play as.

Development

Pong Toss! Frat Party Games was originally intended to be based on the drinking game beer pong and titled Frat Party Games: Beer Pong, and was developed by JV Games. It was announced on May 21, 2008.[3] It was the first video game created in a proposed series called Frat Party Games due to the drinking game's popularity. It uses an engine called the Entity Engine. Jag Jaeger, Vice President of JV Games, stated that he wanted to make games that people could play without having to invests hours into, adding that the developers often would discuss college games and how much fun they had with them. This caused them to realize that such games fit into this business model best. He commented that the game has several advantages, including not having to worry about diseases that people have encountered while playing the real game and not having to set up the game or clean it up afterwards.[2]

In developing the gameplay, the developers followed a common set of rules from beer pong. He commented that while it could be mapped to a traditional game controller, the developers felt that it would be no fun if not developed with the Wii Remote in mind. Jaeger stated that one of the challenges in making the game was that everyone had a different throwing style, and that they had to find a "happy medium" to ensure that they do not have to add another level of complexity. He added that it was important to the developers that they required that the players not have to push any buttons to play. They studied and analyzed the throwing habits of more than 15 people to fix this problem. The WiiWare size limitations did not present problems for the developers, commenting that the majority of their games have been under extreme size limitations, adding that bloated code is bad form and shows horrible programming technique. The developers chose to put the game on WiiWare due to the promise of less development time, less risk, and less money put into the project than necessary for a retail game.[2] It was first released in North America on July 28, 2008, and later in Europe on February 27, 2009.[4]

Controversy

The player's character lining up a shot. The setting is in a basement with people watching the player. It was originally based on the adult party game beer pong.

Due to controversy over its release and purportedly lax Entertainment Software Ratings Board rating in North America, all references to alcohol were removed and it was retitled.[4] Community groups in Virginia complained about its Teen rating for ages 13 and up, arguing that a game based on the use of alcohol should not be sold to people under the legal drinking age.[5] Concerned parents sent letters to JV Games, its developer, and Nintendo, the producer of the Wii console.[6] JV Games' Vice President Jag Jaeger dismissed concerns, calling the situation "kind of funny".[5] He added that he had no idea the word "beer" would cause such a strong reaction.[6] He stated that other games have the proposed problems this one has, pointing out gambling video games in relation to the potentially addictive nature, role-playing games in relation to alcohol, and shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy in relation to influence versus rating, both of which have alcoholics as the main characters.[2]

Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal criticized the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in a letter for approving it for ages 13 and up. Jaeger informed Blumenthal that the title would be changed to Pong Toss! Frat Party Games, and all references to alcohol would be removed, though for a time, it was still advertised on its web site as Beer Pong.[4] He stated that because no drinking was involved in the game, they were able to change it without making any significant changes. The name was changed to reflect the true nature of the game and attract a larger audience.[5] Blumenthal commented that this was a victory, but it's only a small one if it isn't followed by others, claiming it glorifies alcohol abuse and binge drinking. Jaeger commented that the game was not about alcohol, but the growing sport of beer pong, adding that no drinking or drunkenness is depicted in the game.[4]

A statement was issued by ESRB spokesperson Eliot Mizrachi, stating that while they respect the Blumenthal's right to disagree, the role of the ESRB is not to censor, but to impartially rate games. He added that the game was simply tossing ping pong balls into cups; it does not warrant an Adults Only rating.[7] Later, Particia Vance, the President of the ESRB, wrote a letter to Blumenthal, defending its rating of Pong Toss. She stated that alcohol had a minimal role in this game, and no one was shown drinking beer. She added that despite its premise being based on a drinking game, it was about nothing more than tossing ping pong balls into plastic cups, adding that she's unsure of the basis for the statement that the game promotes alcohol abuse and binge drinking. She states that the game was rated by three specially trained, adult raters not connected to the industry, who found the game appropriate for ages 13 and over.[4] She adds that because Pong Toss is available only as a downloadable WiiWare game, it would receive scant attention. However, because of all the attention for the game from advocacy groups, more people, including those in the age group Blumenthal stated are at risk, will resolve to play it.[5]

Blumenthal sent a second letter to the ESRB, requesting that other games containing alcoholic references should be given an Adult Only rating for people 18 and over. He also criticizes them for saying that the alcoholic references were minimal, stating that the name Beer Pong directly refers to a drinking game and that alcohol is depicted throughout the game's graphics. He states that the whole premise of the game is heavy alcohol consumption, meaning the game isn't appropriate for teenagers and should have received more consideration from the Board. Jaeger disagreed, saying it would be absurd to list it with an Adults Only rating, bringing up games in the Grand Theft Auto series, which only receive a Mature rating, which is for ages 17 and over. He adds that it would prevent them from releasing the game, as Nintendo does not allow for the release of Adults Only games on its consoles.[4] The final version was rated for Everyone six and older.[8]

In a Time article, editor Meaghan Haire commented that JV Games should have anticipated this because of both alcohol and video games as sources of complaints from parents. She added that many critics felt that they went too far with Beer Pong. In Fall of 2007, Georgetown University banned beer pong, which Haire states is why it isn't surprising. Other institutions that have banned similar drinking games include the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Tufts University. These bans often spread out to any variety of drinking games, including water–pong, as it can induce water intoxication. However, some institutions have repealed their drinking game bans, including the Kenyon College in Ohio. Jaeger finds the anti-pong activism as somewhat fruitless, since as long as students have access to alcohol, they will create a drinking activity out of any game.[6]

Reception

Pong Toss! Frat Party Games received very negative reception, holding an aggregate score of 18/100 and 18.75% from Metacritic and GameRankings, respectively.[9][10] 1UP.com called the game a "complete mess" with poorly designed controls and graphics from "a decade-old PS1 game".[11] Nintendo Life thought the play system was somewhat "well thought-out and creative" but was wasted on a below-average game that is "terribly basic" in features and "frustratingly random" to play.[12] IGN called the game "ridiculously shallow" and bordering on "pointless".[13] GamesMaster editor Matthew Castle joked that there was a place reserved for frat boys in Hell, which would contain a copy of Pong Toss. He criticized it for being unnecessary considering the simplicity of the concept, though added that the horrible controls and visuals "that would make an N64 heave" accomplished this already.[14]

In their review of Pong Toss! Frat Party Games, IGN editor Matt Casamassina found it ironic that they would change the name, since the entire premise surrounds the consumption of alcohol.[13] 1UP.com editor Kyle Stallock found the notion of an Adults Only rating for Pong Toss! to inappropriate, considering games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Condemned 2, and World of Warcraft hold more lenient ratings, despite not only allowed players to see the alcohol, but allow players to consume it.[15] In its review of Pong Toss!, 1UP.com editor called it distressingly flat as a result of the removal of alcoholic references.[11] In Europe, the game was released as Beer Pong: Frat Party Games despite the controversy.[4]

In response to the criticism of Pong Toss from blogs and review sites, JV Games Vice President Jag Jaeger stated that the company wasn't bothered, stating that the people who make such statements without actually playing the game are hardcore gamers, who he states are very prejudiced as to what they like and dislike. He stated that it is intended for casual gamers, the same group of people who enjoyed Wii Sports, commenting that while the game had good artificial intelligence, playing with a friend is the best way to play.[2]

References

  1. ^ "Two new WiiWare titles released". Eurogamer. 2009-02-27. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/two-new-wiiware-titles-released. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  2. ^ a b c d e "JV Games Interview - Pong Toss". Nintendo Life. 2008-07-21. http://wiiware.nintendolife.com/news/2008/07/jv_games_interview_pong_toss. Retrieved 2009-04-02.  
  3. ^ "Beer Pong to WiiWare". IGN. 2008-05-21. http://wii.ign.com/articles/875/875849p1.html. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "'Beer Pong' Video Game Has Controversy Brewing". Fox News. 2008-07-07. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,377421,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-03.  
  5. ^ a b c d "Beer Pong Goes Sober". IGN. 2008-07-08. http://wii.ign.com/articles/887/887091p1.html. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  6. ^ a b c "The War Against Beer Pong". Time. 2008-07-31. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1828085,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  7. ^ "Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence Regarding Alcohol Use in Games". Game Politics. 2008-07-08. http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/07/07/connecticut-attorney-general-esrb-under-influence-regarding-alcohol-use-games. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  8. ^ "Time Looks at Beer Pong Controversy". Game Politics. 2008-07-31. http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/07/31/time-looks-beer-pong-controversy. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  9. ^ "Pong Toss: Frat Party Games for Wii". GameRankings. http://www.gamerankings.com/wii/951726-pong-toss-frat-party-games/index.html. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  10. ^ "Pong Toss: Frat Party Games (wii: 2008) Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/pongtossfratpartygames?q=Pong%20Toss. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  
  11. ^ a b "Reviews: Pong Toss: Frat Party Games". 1up.com. http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3169095&p=44. Retrieved 2009-03-13.  
  12. ^ "Review: Frat Party Games Pong Toss (WiiWare)". Nintendo Life. http://wiiware.nintendolife.com/reviews/2008/07/frat_party_games_pong_toss. Retrieved 2009-03-22.  
  13. ^ a b "IGN: Pong Toss: Frat Party Games Review". IGN. http://wii.ign.com/articles/897/897146p1.html.  
  14. ^ "Pong Toss: Frat Party Games - WiiWare". GamesMaster. 2008-09-30. http://www.gamesradar.com/wii/pong-toss-frat-party-games-wiiware/review/pong-toss-frat-party-games-wiiware/a-20080930154856796014/g-2008093015274356066. Retrieved 2009-08-03.  
  15. ^ "ESRB Under Scrutiny for Alcohol Depictions". 1UP.com. 2008-07-08. http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3168579. Retrieved 2009-03-04.  

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